Private Francis George Miles

9 July 1896 – 8 November 1961:-

Francis was born in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire and at the age of 13 went to work in the mines of the Princess Royal Coal Company. In December 1914, at the age of 18, he enlisted with his stepfather into the Gloucestershire Regiment. Because of his mining background he was attached to the Royal Engineers as a tunneller.

In July 1917 he was buried alive by an exploding shell and was the sole survivor out of 50 men. He came back to the UK to recuperate. Once recovered, he returned to France and joined the 1/5th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment.

On 23rd October 1918 at Bois-l’Évêque, Landrecies, France, when his company was held up by a line of enemy machine-guns in a sunken road, Private Miles, alone and on his own initiative went forward under exceptionally heavy fire, located a machine-gun, shot the gunner and put the gun out of action. Then seeing another gun nearby, he again went forward alone, shot the gunner and captured the team of eight. Finally, he stood up and beckoned to his company who, acting on his signals, were able to capture 16 machine-guns, one officer and 50 other ranks.

With the war behind him, Miles returned to his home village of Clearwell to a hero’s welcome where he was presented with a gold watch. He returned to working in the mines, but suffered from ill health for the rest of his life.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, Francis was back in uniform and served with the Pioneer Corps.

His medal is held at The Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum London.

Filed under: WW1